Photo by Male Daniel : Wonduruba IDPs in Lainya
UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards during press briefing on January 8 2016 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva has expressed concern at recent growing insecurity in South Sudan’s southern state of Western Equatoria and its serious impact on the civilian population.
Edward said Localized fighting between armed groups and government soldiers and an apparent breakdown in law and order are being reported in and near Yambio some 300 kilometres west of Juba.
The Spokes person added that sporadic gunfire is commonplace, and there has also been an increase in crime involving car-jackings, attacks on government property, looting of civilian homes and sexual assaults reportedly by armed youth.
‘’A recent UN mission to Yambio found nearly 200 houses burnt down in the neighbourhood of Ikpiro and several hundred others looted’’ reads a statement from UNHCR ‘’People have taken refuge in the town centre or moved to nearby villages. UN estimates put the number of people displaced in Western Equatoria’s Yambia and Tambura counties at 15,000 since the start of December’’
Taban Deng Gai who heads the SPLM/A IO advance team to Juba has urged during opening of SPLM party Extra ordinary convention on 7 January 2016 for the silence of guns in the then Western Equatoria now divided into Maridi State, Amadi State, Gbudwe State under the South Sudan 28 States
‘’I am appealing to the command of our army here and the command of the IO forces that guns should be silent in Western Equatoria the same way they are silent in Upper Nile now. With this peace as I said earlier there is no backward movement. We are going forward with this peace and there is no more going back to war any longer’’ Deng said
‘’I want remain comrade Taban that yes guns are silent but we know when we were fighting that SPLA IO was not in any area here in Equatoria, all the States of Equatoria’’ Kirr said during the opening of the SPLM extra ordinary convention
‘’but now there are mushrooming compounds bandits who claims to be part of SPLA IO I might say that if these are the people to continue to fight us when we have signed the agreement and we want to implement the agreement and they come to fight like now how many people have died on Juba Yei road, and how many people have died on Juba Nimule road and Juba Kajo Keji road why are these people killing innocent civilians and they just take their property’’ the president added
‘’No, these are not IO forces. If they were IO forces their command would have given orders for them to ceasefire. As long as these people are fighting attacking vehicles from the roads I will not stop my forces from hunting them down like rats where ever they go’’ Kiir said
The UNHCR spokes person added that the violence is also driving people to flee their homes and head hundreds of kilometres to the southeast into neighbouring Uganda where 500 refugees have been registered every day since the beginning of this week – a quadrupling in recent numbers.
‘’As well as the violence, refugees cite food insecurity due to failed crops as a reason for their flight’’ Edward said
Edward said Last month, UNHCR reported that fighting between local groups and the South Sudan army in Western Equatoria had displaced over 4,000 people into a remote region of north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo saying as of 6 January, the number of registered new arrivals, most in the area around Dungu, had risen to 6,181 comprising 4,164 South Sudan nationals and 2,017 Congolese who had previously been living as refugees in South Sudan.
He added that the influx has continued into 2016 so far albeit at a much reduced rate. The government refugee agency has recorded 268 in the past week.
‘’Overall, these are alarming developments for a region of South Sudan that has until now been relatively stable. The implications for humanitarian access to an estimated 7,400 refugees living in Western Equatoria are very worrying. UNHCR is in contact with government authorities regarding the security of those refugees and has agreed on additional UNMISS force protection through increased patrols as well as support to relocate refugees to safer areas’’ Edward said
The conflict that erupted in South Sudan in December 2013 has produced one of the world’s largest humanitarian emergencies with 2.3 million people forced to flee their homes, 650,000 of these across borders as refugees and 1.65 million displaced inside the country.